How to Produce High Quality Written Content

I constantly hear SEOs and internet marketers evangelizing good content, suggesting that brands “create high quality content,” or “build link-worthy content.” Content has definitely become a trend word, with many people, including Bill Gates, proclaiming “content is king.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for great content, but I think all too often brands find themselves unable to define and create “awesome content.”

So, I’m going to break down steps to creating high quality written content. I’m focusing on written content, because that’s what I see brands trying to create most often—but obviously there are many types of web content.   

Before You Start Writing

Unfortunately, many brands try to start writing web content before they identify why they’re writing it, and what purpose it will serve their readers.

1. Identify Your Audience and What They Want

Your content strategy cannot be “build it and they will come” (more here on how to create a content strategy). If your goal is to create content that people will read and share, then you have to figure out who your audience is and what types of content they already read and share. Here are a few ways you can identify your audience:

  • Ask for reader feedback in blog articles/blog comments and through your social media platforms
  • Send out surveys (old school but still effective)
  • Hang out with your target audience by going to networking events or conferences they are likely to attend
  • Check out case study reports your competitors publish on their audiences
If you already know who your audience is, identify them in the following ways:
  • What are the general demographics?
  • What/who influences them?
  • What does your audience want/need? (basic information vs. detailed tutorials, etc.)
  • What questions are your readers asking and what topics would they like to see covered?
2. Do Your Research

You can’t really create high quality content unless your content is well researched and well supported. Start your research by running through some basic steps:

  • Identify and develop your topic: Once you evaluate what your readers want and need, narrow down the specific topic you wish to cover and flesh out the finer points.
  • Review what’s already been said: Delve into what industry experts say on this topic—which will provide you with the backbone of your research.
  • Identify gaps: Once you figure out what’s already been said on the topic, identify what hasn’t been said. Great content is useful and unique. If you want to contribute something unique, then you need to make sure what you’re writing hasn’t already been said.

The Writing Process

Many brands, bloggers, and web writers make the mistake of writing for the web like they’re writing an essay, but web writing is not like academic writing. There are a whole set of best practices that apply to web writing.

Create Credibility

As we all know, anyone can write anything they want on the internet, which is why 65% of web readers find web content “hit or miss” or “unreliable,” according to a study conducted by content strategy company, Content Science. If you’re going to post content online with the hope of people taking you seriously, then you need to qualify yourself appropriately and create credibility.

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But, as a brand, web readers are less inclined to trust your content—with endorsements from companies/brands ranking 5th in features that help readers decide whether or not to trust web content, according to the same study referenced above.

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If you want to build credibility, you need to write unbiased and non promotional content (if people wanted to hear more about your products, they would would refer to your ads). Web readers are hypersensitive to brands trying to sell them something or endorse a particular product.

In addition to creating non promotional content, here are a few ways to boost your credibility:

  • Cite all of your information/facts/statistics. Try to use a primary source whenever possible (in web writing, you can simply link to the source to cite it, but you should still try to use attribution phrases)
  • Qualify your experience or expertise
  • Link to other industry experts, so your readers have plenty of resources to check out
  • Use attribution phrases whenever possible
Tip: make sure the attribution goes after the fact and that the attribution phrase is linked to the original source. (For example: Nicotine can impair a restful night of sleep, according to the CDC)

 

Make Your Writing Actionable

Like I said earlier, great web content is both unique and useful. The nature of the internet lends itself to web readers hunting for solutions, and they’re looking for actionable content that they can use—the more practical your tips, the better.

For example, it’s not enough to say that the keys to losing weight are eating less and doing more yoga. Those are both difficult things to do, so if you want to create a resource, you need to give readers extremely useful and practical ways of doing those things.

Take a look at the actionable yoga content versus non-actionable yoga content below—you will see that the actionable example has clear step-by-step directions (plus a picture) as to what the reader should do to achieve the end results. The non-actionable example doesn’t give the reader any takeaways.

Actionable Yoga Content:

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Non-Actionable Yoga Content:

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Tons of people on the internet write about their experiences and observations, but in order for your content to be actionable (and thus, relevant), you need to give your readers something to do with the information you give them.

If you’re having problems identifying what you want your reader to do exactly, use these tips:

  • Ask yourself “what do I want the reader to think, feel, and do?”
  • Tip: Convert these points into calls to action in your content
  • Ask yourself “what do I want to talk about and what are my main points?”
  • Tip: Use these points as your subheadings to create an informal outline that guides your reader through your content (this will also prevent your main points from getting buried)
Here are a few questions you can run through to make sure your writing is actionable:
  • Are there clear takeaways or points of action readers can get from your content?
  • Is there any call to action?
  • Are there steps explaining how to do something or where to find more information?
  • Does every section of your writing add value to your desired message?
Use a Conversational Style and Standard Grammar/Spelling

A web audience, unlike an academic audience, will expect you to use a conversational tone. While some larger, corporate blogs (Forbes, for example) will still stick to a more business-professional voice, overall readers will expect a more informal tone. Also, make sure to avoid flowery or overdone language.

That said, while you’re writing on the internet, that is not an excuse to throw out all grammatical rules. Quite the opposite, in fact— readers will immediately think your content and brand lack credibility if you have awful grammar or spelling.

If you need some spelling help, The Oatmeal has a great place for you to start.

How to Structure Your Content

Most noobs to web writing structure their content in traditional essay format—which consists of long blocks of text. This is horribly ineffective, since web users scan instead of read (and in case you didn’t know— it is very difficult to scan blocks of text). Here are a few ways to make your content scannable:
  • Use short paragraphs (between 1-4 sentences is a good range to aim for)
  • Bullet point lists are much easier to read and scan than are traditional essay articles
  • Use bold or italics  to emphasize points
  • Use subheadings to guide your readers through the article. Readers should be able to skim subheadings to get an idea of what your main points are
  • Get to the point; don’t include a lot of fluff and useless content
  • Keep your main points front and center (for example, make each main point a subheading or bolded)
  • Keep your content long enough to thoroughly cover the subject, but don’t drag it out (hint: if you feel like you’re done writing, you probably are)
  • Use images and visual examples to give your reader a “visual break”
As you can see in the examples below, the scannable content is broken up with a subheading, a bulleted list, short paragraphs, and bolded words. However, the unscannable example has large blocks of text (especially the last paragraph boxed in red), no lists, bolded words, etc.

Scannable Content:

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Unscannable Content:

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If you’ve done the work to craft a well written and well researched article, take the take to make it scannable, so you readers are more likely to actually read your content.

Takeaways

Yes, SEOs and internet markets are right—quality content is vital to your SEO/marketing strategy, so take the time to create a high quality piece of writing by:
  • Determining who your audience is and what they want to read
  • Research your work well and identify gaps in available information you can fill in
  • Make your writing actionable and useful
  • Use a conversational style and standard grammar
  • Make your content easy to scan
Despite all the blogs claiming to have the recipe for the perfect article, web writing is a new medium and it’s not an exact science, so keep your methodology and practices agile and flexible.

Kyra Kuik

Kyra Kuik

Kyra Kuik focuses on content strategy, ideation, writer management, and editing in her role as Distilled's Content Coordinator, where she gets to embrace her passion for writing, content...   read more

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39 Comments

  1. What a fantastic article! Vety in depth and covering all the key elements content creators and marketers should be aware of. Great suff!

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  2. All that said, isn't it the case that there's such an increasing volcano of rubbish written for the web, and duplicate material, that it's getting harder and harder to get your content noticed, no matter how good it is and what sort of filters your readers use. The whole website is becoming a bit like the greedy monster that ate itself. I've suggested elsewhere that there may be a move to start re-engaging with people offline (print and events) where there is much better editorial control. That said, I doubt you'll find anyone who makes their living from the web agreeing with that! What do you think?

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  3. On this good article I would emphasize the "Create Credibility" section. I think it's key to create reliability and trust around the community we are writing for, because at the end of the end, they are the ones who buy what we are selling them

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  4. I agree with your idea of ​​content. The really important point It is to create content that provides valuable information without selling anything.

    I like your post! Great Job! Lucas.

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    • Kyra Kuik

      I think you're right, Lucas. The whole point of content is to spread information, not sell stuff.

    • Of course I agree with you Lucas, but indirectly don´t you have a goal in mind? (if you are a company of course) if you are not then I support Kyra´s thought.

    • By the way, as I noticed you guys misunderstood me, by "selling them" I do not mean a product but instead a goal we have in mind, which can be a user staying longer than 90 seconds reading your content (or whatever it may be). Hope it is clear now!

  5. Great article Kyra. Great content certainly does build credibility of the brand and also the credibility of the author of the content. Once the people find the content on a blog to be credible & useful, than the search traffic will turn into direct traffic, new visitors will become returning visitors or consistent visitors, free word of mouth will happen from a daily visitor by sharing on social media and letting others know about the quality of the blog. This is certainly credibility building and earning the user trust which is true marketing.

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    • Kyra Kuik

      Thanks for the kind words, Sahil. You definitely bring up some great points about the long term importance of quality content.

  6. Hi. Very thorough and well executed. I'll second Lucas' point, +1 for content that sells* through educating. And now I'll go plug into the rest of your (social media) channels.

    Thanks for the post. Keep it up.

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  7. That's exactly what we call Scientific approach to any task Kyra. You actually Provided a good synopsis for content writing. Your input is really commendable one. The importance that social media is creating in business arena is quiet good to see and you have given a good emphasis on that too. Thanks a lot Kyra for the excellent article.

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  8. Now that all these b-level SEO's are catching on that you can't push a button to "do SEO" they are jumping on the content wagon, which is really just poluting the internet with a ton of garbage.

    Whenever writing I always try to keep in mind "do my target audience actually care about this" etc and not look at blogging as a chore, but rather what I can contribute to the community etc.

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    • Kyra Kuik

      That's great advice, Patrick. I think one of the biggest mistake brands make is not thinking of their target audience before they start the content creation process.

  9. I myself i find hard to write a good content. A content about something like no one has written before. Writing a good content is not that simple and it requires full attention, good source of fact information and dedication. Utilizing some help and advice of other people could be very useful. Some people do not know how and where to put the right words in their content so following the "How to Structure Your Content" advice might change the flow of the article. :)

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  10. Good research work Kyra!!

    Content writing is an Art. A good content websites automatically gets good traffic to their sites. The most important rule to abide by is to enjoy what you're doing. Yes we should have fun with our writing tactics, writing is one of the most powerful tools to utilize today and as you said "we should analyze what people are searching for" and this is the key factor for producing good content.

    Thanks for providing good insights about content writing.

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  11. Great article Kyra, thanks for sharing

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  12. An inspiring set of tips & tricks. Thanks Kyra.

    I'm curious, why do you recommend the attribution go after the fact? Doesn't sighting the attribution first allow the read to prepare and give context to the fact that follows?

    I'd also like to add one thought / tip:

    Don't be afraid to go long and detailed. Aside from lack of quality, the next biggest flaw of most (blog) articles often seems to be a lack of depth and breadth, yes? The plus, is you can then break that into two, three or more parts and keep'em coming back for more. Consumability is always important too.

    Thanks again. Happy New Year.

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    • Kyra Kuik

      Thanks Mark. I recommend the attribution goes after the fact because that's journalism best practice, but obviously web writing is more flexible.

      And yes, I think you're right in saying too often blog posts don't go into enough detail--it's something we need to improve.

  13. Well written, thanks for the summary Kyra! Way to practice what you preach! I personally keep a folder archiving good material I find online and then model my own work off of others excellence. Any sites you follow for consistent high quality content?

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    • Kyra Kuik

      Good question. Honestly, I follow a wide variety of sites, most of which you've probably heard of. If you're looking for new ideas, this article has some good ones.

  14. Kyra, just so that you know, I am planning to use this article to train my staff for content writing . It cannot get any easier than this understand how to write really good content!

    +1 for the structuring part! Thanks a lot.

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  15. Nicely done.

    Two things resonate with content.. timing and quality. If you deliver both, you don't have to work very hard to shine. Thanks for the post.

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  16. I am a firm believer in quality content. In the sector I operate it is the clear difference between attracting lots of long tail traffic and none at all. Just don't tell everybody.

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  17. jeeeze talk about a boring blog title ;)

    seriously tho great topic. I think if starting from scratch most users need to start with a course in GSPC or grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

    Nothing is worse than someone misusing there grammer.

    except in blog comments and texts, no rules apply

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  18. Great article! Great content! Instructive and enlightening. I certainly have learned some new ways to create high quality content pages on my website.

    Thanks Kyra! I truly appreciate this.

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  19. I like how you mention to structure your content to make it easy to scan. I had just completed scanning your entire article and then took the time to read through the points of interest more thoroughly (like the scannable content section and of course the Takeaways, nice touch).
    I would like to use this for several of my clients that attempt to write on their own. However, I doubt they would even take the time to "scan" this, much less read it fully and actually attempt to implement any of it.
    Thanks,
    --Steven

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  20. Writing unique and original content on the web is the way to go. But it is getting more difficult because of the garbage that already exists on thee internet. Also, I sometimes find it difficult to write on a topic that has been tackled so many times before. Any suggestion?

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  21. "Content is Queen". Thanks Kyra.

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  22. Shubham

    Hi Kyra,

    Really great and useful article related to content marketing. I am really excited that I will read it again, again and again because I don't want to lose any point of this article.

    Thanks
    Shubham

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  23. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this web site needs a lot more attention.

    I'll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the information!

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  24. Hi,
    Great post. Thanks a lot for this helpful ideas and information.

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  25. This is very useful information for us...
    I am a new blogger and i really want this type of information.....
    This information will help me to write quality and good content... so thanks for it

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  26. Ranjeet kashyap

    thanks for sharing with us. its really helpful for us

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  27. great article , really useful for me to write a unique article. the tips for writing quality content are appreciable.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this

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  28. Mann Sharma

    Awesome Kyra... just fell in love with your write-up.
    As per being a novice in content writing, I keep searching for suggestions. your article is best one so far... thanks a ton dear...:)

    reply >

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